Only 106-109 volts to outlets

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  #1  
Old 10-26-13, 08:59 PM
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Only 106-109 volts to outlets

Earlier today, my stereo receiver went into protect mode for no apparent reason. After a fair amount of "WTF T-shooting", knowing none of its settings had changed, its error message on its digital display changed to the following:

LOW VOLTAGE PROTECTION - POWERING OFF.

Low voltage protection...?? What the....?
I grabbed my multimeter and tested the outlet. Sure enough, it was only showing 106-107V. Thinking it was an isolated situation, I decided top check the other outlets in the room and received the same results. As I worked my way around the entire house, I discovered all of the outlets were reading pretty much the same with the exception of the GFCI in the garage which read 111v.

I don't even know where to begin to t-shoot this situation or how. Am I wrong to assume the outlets should be at 115-120v?

Thanks for any help anyone can lend.

Steve
Chandler, AZ
 
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Old 10-26-13, 09:36 PM
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Is it a digital multimeter? If so have you replace the battery? Have you checked the voltage at the breaker box?
 
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Old 10-26-13, 09:39 PM
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If you are comfortable working in the main electrical panel you should check it there.
Check each hot leg to ground for +/- 120vac and then across both hot legs for +/- 240vac.
 
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Old 10-26-13, 09:54 PM
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Am I wrong to assume the outlets should be at 115-120v?
You should see 120V +10%. That is, between 108V and 132V.
 
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Old 10-26-13, 11:30 PM
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Thanks for the prompt replies.

Yes, it's digital and the battery was replaced within the past couple of months.

First thing in the morning, I'll check the situation at the box and see what's what.

So, 108v is acceptable?

If the voltage is lower than expected at the box, then I need to call the power company, correct? I mean, at that point, it's out of my hands and they need to come and inspect the situation, right?
 
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Old 10-26-13, 11:56 PM
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That is correct, if you have low voltage at the input connections to the main circuit breaker it is a utility problem. If you have normal voltage at the input but low voltage after the main circuit breaker it is a problem with that circuit breaker.
 
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Old 10-27-13, 03:01 AM
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Yes, it's digital and the battery was replaced within the past couple of months
Change out with a battery from a different source or better use an analog multimeter to verify the digital reading.
 
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Old 10-27-13, 04:55 AM
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How old is your house? Hopefully you do not have knob and tube wiring.

The electricity at my house generally stays within a couple volts of 120. Right now I've got 121 but during peak summer usage I've seen it go as low as 117 so I would doubt your power company is feeding you anything close to the 10% limit.

The only times I have found low voltage it has been the result of a weak connection somewhere and it's a very dangerous condition because that weak connection can get hot enough to cause a fire. Like Furd mentioned. Start at the panel and work downstream from there. If the main lugs show 120/240 check the output of the breaker to the ground/neutral bar. If it's low it's the breaker. In addition to replacing it inspect the contact bar of the panel and the wire for corrosion. If the power is OK leaving the panel check the junction boxes for the trouble circuit again looking for corroded or weak connections.
 
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Old 10-27-13, 01:10 PM
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Got up in the middle of the night and checked a few outlets. With pretty much nothing turned on or running (exceptions of course being fridge, phone chargers, etc.) I got 111-112v at every outlet I tested. I would think that with virtually no load I should be seeing closer to 120 - but I may be wrong in that method of thinking.

The house was built in '87 - all electric. No gas.

Don't have an analog meter but I did install a new battery as directed and got the same readings.

Heading out to the breaker box now to do as instructed. Will report my findings.

Thanks so much guys for your help! I'm actually fairly handy and do most if not all of my own homeowner maintenance, installs, repairs etc., but when it comes to electricity, it's my Achilles's heel.
 
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Old 10-27-13, 01:45 PM
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I did install a new battery as directed and got the same readings.
Dang! That eliminates the easy answer. Let us know the readings when you get them.
 
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Old 10-27-13, 02:05 PM
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112v and 222v.

I guess now it comes down to what the power company deems adequate. I'll call them tomorrow and plead my case but they may say that they guarantee to deliver 110 and 220 and since I'm getting that, they met their end of the agreement.

Any suggestions?

The good thing - if there is one - is that the voltage being delivered to the outlets is consistent with the voltage at the box so at least I don't have to go tracing wires.
 
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Old 10-27-13, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by PJmax
Check each hot leg to ground for +/- 120vac and then across both hot legs for +/- 240vac.
112v and 222v.
That's one reading close to 120V and one close to 240V. What is the reading from the other leg to ground? 110V?
 
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Old 10-27-13, 03:26 PM
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Sorry... they were both the same.
 
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Old 10-28-13, 01:01 PM
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Well, that was embarrassing!

Called the power company this morning and explained my situation to the CSR. She told me a service tech would stop by sometime today and would be available to answer my questions if I was home when he came by.
About 15 mins. after I hung up, I get a call from a supervisor who wanted more info than the CSR had gotten and wanted specifics i.e., time, location, which outlets I tetsted, etc. I appreciated his concern and asked if I was right to be concerned at the voltage readings I was getting. He told me I was absolutely right and should have called their after hours number over the weekend. He then asked if I was going to be at home for a little bit and told me he and a tech would be here within the hour.
22 mins. later, they showed up.
While they disassembled my breaker box (not literally...) I re-explained my situation and asked a very closed ended, pointed question: What kind of voltage should I see at the box and at the outlet. They both said 120vac and a fluctuation of no more than 5%! Dang!
At almost exactly the moment he answered the question, he connected the second prong to the leg on the SES side of my box and his giant Fluke display read: 121vac. He told me not to get discouraged about me calling just yet, he several more tests to run. He suggested I go get my multimeter while he started testing the breakers so we could compare.
With his meter connected to one of the legs and ground, he made contact at the same points with my meter.

Have you ever been in one of those situations where something happens that makes you feel like a fool and you pray for some kind of distraction to take the focus off of you like... oh I don't know... a plane falling out the sky close by or a gorgeous woman goes streaking by butt naked?

My meter is out of calibration by 10 volts on the AC readings. 10 VOLTS!

My only defense was that obviously SOMETHING happened on Saturday because my very expensive stereo receiver sensed a drop in voltage and alerted me to it. I didn't go looking for problems just for the heck of it.

He and the tech were very nice and assured me that any fluctuation in current is a serious issue and to not hesitate to call immediately if anything like that happens again.

So, there you have it. My P.O.S. meter is now a door-stop and I'll be laying down the coins for a Fluke very, very soon!

Thanks so much for all the help and suggestions.

Steve
 
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Old 10-28-13, 01:14 PM
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I used to run a gym and we knew the thermometer I used to measure the temperature in the hot tub was .5 F low so I knew if it ever said 103.5 it was really 104 and the city could come in and shut me down. Kind of important information.

10 volts off on a multimeter? I'd try to take it back even if I didn't have a receipt and it was purchased long ago.
 
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Old 10-28-13, 01:33 PM
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No need to lay down big bucks for a Fluke. All you need is a $8-$15 analog multimeter.
 
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Old 10-28-13, 04:39 PM
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It's a Craftsman which was a Christmas gift from my daughter about 5 years ago. I'm fairly certain Sears won't take it back at this point in the game. I have no proof that it has been defective since day 1.
The weird thing is the 10 deg. deficit is only present in AC measurements. I use it for DC stuff nearly every day in my business and those readings are dead on.

As for replacing it with an analog version..... Yeah, that's not going to happen. Not positive it will be a Fluke but it definitely won't be an analog model nor will it be a cheapie purchased at Harbor Freight.

Anyone know if it's possible to calibrate a multimeter?
 
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Old 10-28-13, 05:06 PM
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As for replacing it with an analog version..... Yeah, that's not going to happen. Not positive it will be a Fluke but it definitely won't be an analog model nor will it be a cheapie...
Why not? They're reliable.

I have a Craftsman analog meter. A Christmas gift from my son, years ago. It's big and bulky. I don't use it everyday. Just when I need to make sure my measurements are dead on.

It can be calibrated. I don't know about yours.

BTW, Sears sells a good inexpensive analog multimeter: Extech Analog Multimeter
 
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Old 10-28-13, 05:26 PM
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Digital meters are more easily influenced by stray induced voltages then analogs.The low impedance of an analog meter bleeds off the induced voltage.
 
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Old 10-28-13, 06:48 PM
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Thanks for all the tips and info about the meters.
I have to agree about the decline of Sears standing behind their products. Used to be I could take a broken ratchet in to any store, walk up to any tool center employee, hand them the ratchet and be handed in return a brand new one literally without having to utter a word.
Harbor Freight now warrants all their hand tools for life basically thje same way sears used to but who wants to replace a screwdriver or ratchet or whatever else over and over and over again?

The stereo is just fine. Whatever happened to the current that triggered its low voltage sensor was corrected just as quickly as it came. Fact is, after it turned itself off the last time I messed with it, I got so involved and obsessed with the low voltage throughout the house that I didn't even turn it back on again until last night.
It's a Pioneer Elite VSX-27TX 450 watt multi-zone home theater amp/receiver. It's an absolute beast! It weighs in at over 40 lbs.. It can provide completely different audio loudly to 4 different areas with plenty of juice to spare. It's because of its capabilities as a multi-zone server that it is equipped with an on board current sensor in case it tried to over-extend itself doing the multi-zone thing.
 
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Old 10-30-13, 03:27 PM
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Just thought I'd follow up on the question of whether or not a multimeter can be calibrated. The quick answer is yes as long as the main circuit board has a potentiometer that can be adjusted. In my case, it does and following the steps outlined in a YouTube video I found, I was able to calibrate mine to within .001 volts. It's quite simple actually if you don't mind having to pull the cover of the DMM.

Regards,
Steve
 
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